Home Editorial The Windows 8 gaming apocalypse isn’t coming

Prior to the Windows 8 launch, gamers and PC power users in general were losing their (quad core, liquid-cooled) minds over the implications of the new operating system. In a stark departure from seventeen years of computing tradition,* Microsoft had decided to replace one arbitrary shortcut menu with a modern, equally arbitrary shortcut menu. It would be an unmitigated disaster.

Of course, the slick new Start Menu (also known as the Start Switching to Linux Menu, or the Antichrist Menu) wasn’t the only problem among panic-stricken power users. The freshly minted Windows 8 Store was also seen as an affront to traditional computing. Gamers feared that Microsoft would eventually snuff out Desktop-based software, eventually leaving only its licensed apps to garner all PC gaming profits.

This (hypothetically) exclusive, integrated design led Gabe Newell, president of Valve and patron saint of PC gaming, to condemn Windows 8 as a “catastrophe.” And, as with all of GabeN’s hadiths, it was immediately embraced as Steam Church canon. Surely, anyone foolish enough to taste the forbidden Windows 8 fruit** was doomed to an eternity of shovelware, birth pangs, and blue screens of death!

But intrigued by the Microserpent, I decided to take a bite of Windows 8. And guess what went wrong first?

Absolutely nothing.


Start at the Start: It’s just a menu

The panic over Windows 8 begins with the end of the Start Menu… purely nostalgia-fueled hysteria. Ever since Windows XP, the Start Menu has been losing relevance as a program-executing hub.  The quick-launch area of the Task Bar made users’ most common software instantly accessible, later improved in Vista/7 with pinned programs. If you needed something you didn’t have pinned, you could just hit your keyboard’s Windows key and start typing to find and launch it. And, of course, most users (read: young/old/disorganized people) launched everything from Desktop shortcuts anyway, bypassing both the Start Menu and the Task Bar.

In other words, almost nobody actually clicked around the Start Menu for things other than Control Panel. Both casual and power users bypassed it completely with shortcuts, pins, and searching. Plus, the whole concept of a menu-driven corner launcher was growing obsolete anyway, thanks to increasing monitor resolutions and increasingly dense program lists.

Windows 8 just collapsed the Start Menu, Desktop, and Task Bar into one full-screen launcher: the Start Screen. Instead of having a corner of your monitor deliver tiny, hard-to-click shortcuts (the Start Menu), icons are now Live Tiles that are instantly apparent and identifiable. Instead of an unorganized clutter of programs and documents (the Desktop), the Start Screen allows simple categorization and (if desired) multi-page scrolling. Instead of static icons that serve no purpose when idle (the Task Bar), Live Tiles now display helpful program updates even when they’re not in use. And if you’re a power user who doesn’t like giant buttons, you can still launch anything you want using only the keyboard via Start Screen searching.

And if you absolutely hate all of that, you can still use the Desktop and Task Bar. They didn’t go anywhere. If you want to litter them with random icons and photos  you’re too lazy to organize, it’s totally cool.

But why not just learn to love the Start Screen? If you want to play Team Fortress 2, just click the Tile for it, or hit the Windows Key and type T-E-A-ENTER. It’s just as fast (if not faster) as launching it from the Task Bar or from Steam, and there are no contextual menus necessary. The Start Screen doesn’t slow down your fun by making you hunt for a 10-pixel logo. It’s an integrated program/search launcher … that’s it.

The Start Screen gives me the same, fast access I’ve always had to games, programs, and media.


Don’t Crap on Apps

While the concept of an App Store for games makes many PC enthusiasts cringe, there’s really nothing to fear. Almost all Windows 8 Games (so far) are simple applications that aren’t really positioned to compete with AAA gaming titles. Stuff like Angry Birds, Jetpack Joyride, Minesweeper, and the like fill out the catalog, all intended to be simple distractions in the same vein as Solitaire. And while Gabe Newell may be against the concept of a monolithic PC gaming platform, he may be shocked to learn that Steam pretty much fits the bill!

Basically, if you were afraid Microsoft would make a sweeping power play to wrestle control of PC gaming away from your favorite developers, you can rest at ease. The Windows App Store doesn’t appear to be a gaming coup d’etat or, if it is, it’s a terrible attempt at one. The App Store just isn’t meant to be like Steam, Origin, or UPlay.*** Outside of Apps, all of your old Desktop titles run just as well (if not better) than they did in Windows 7, and now it’s actually easier to organize them.

And if you’re not in the mood to play AAA games like Train Simulator, Battlefield 3, Hat Simulator, or Farm Simulator, you now have the option to instantly launch a quick App Store diversion like Pinball FX2. They’re fun ways to pass a few minutes, and the fact that they can be snapped to 1/3 or 2/3 of the screen makes It easier than ever to procrastinate. Hell, this article took an extra 2 hours, thanks to completely bullshit Minesweeper layouts.

App store games aren’t really meant to compete with Steam’s library of AAA titles. They’re just fun diversions that can be multitasked with other apps.

Getting Over Window Pains

I’m not going to claim Windows 8 is perfect. There are a litany of qualms I have with the operating system, including the baffling lack of a tutorial and the way certain settings are handled. The Charms bar’s universality is great, but the mouse and keyboard gestures needed to open it are annoying. Plus, the learning curve of the OS doesn’t help, though that will obviously pass with time.

But as far as gaming goes, my Windows 8 experience has been equal to or better than it was on previous versions of Microsoft’s OS. Launching my favorite games is as fast or faster than before, and a supplement of less serious (but well integrated) titles helps round out my gaming experience.

If you were holding out from a Windows 8 “upgrade” because you heard the OS would kill PC gaming or that the Start Screen was developed in exactly 666 lines of code over 666 days, relax. Nobody is taking away your fun just yet. And hey, the longer you wait to adopt the new Windows, the harder it’s going to be down the line. Jump on board, plug in, and help usher the PC Master Race into the future of online gaming.


* Or, in internet time, an eternity.
** Decidedly not an Apple.
*** I’m not even sure it’s supposed to be like Games for Windows Live!


14 replies to this post
  1. Yup. Pretty much agreed on all of these points. I’ve been using Windows 8 since around August (woo MSDNAA) and it’s pretty much the best upgrade I’ve made to my computer since getting an SSD in terms of non-gaming computer performance.
    If you haven’t already, I’d implore you to try it out at least for a week. It seems to me that the only people hating on Windows 8 nowadays are people who haven’t used it.

  2. Thanks for the article, Wing!
    You’ve erased (almost) all my qualms about windows 8, and that means they’re getting my money soon. :)

  3. I jumped head first into Windows 8 and while I think it is a rather slick operating system. The horror that was a Windows xp to Vista conversion is happening all over again.

    My HP pavilion DV6-6040ca has the hardware power to run the OS no problem… the problem is Driver support. I ran the fun little Upgrade tool and the only issue it informed me about was my Bluetooth would need to be reinstalled after the completion of the upgrade.

    Well it was right I did have to upgrade my Bluetooth… alas the upgrade tool failed to mention Windows 8 does not work with my Wireless card nor my Graphics set up.

    Months later and nearly chucking the whole laptop out the window I finally found a work around in using a combo of costume drivers and compatibility mode to get my switch-able graphics set back up.

    Anyone looking to upgrade a computer to Windows 8 I implore you to go to your manufactures website and check to see if your model is Windows 8 ready. It will save you a whole lot of frustration.

  4. Developers developers developers are running away, that is the apocalypse of 8: why should one trust to write Apps for 8, why should you trust WinRT?
    Apps does exactly what Silverlight did… where is Silverlight now?
    Apps does exactly what Gadgets did, too bad if you spent last 5 years trusting MS in supporting Gadgets applications, now Gadgets are dead.
    Last decade is a missed opportunity for MS, they schizophrenically tried reinventing the wheel, multiple times.
    They were frantically trying to drive developers off premium Win32 API to stop competition.
    Simply put: “we are MS and we use Win32 to keep our advantage, and we will force you to use NET/Silverlight/Gadgets/WinRT so we can scre* your business plan at will deprecating a language or ceasing support to a runtime and making youw whole work obsolete while we will keep improving our 30 years old codebase on Win32!”.
    Is that fair?

      • The bad for MS is it is different than developing for pre-8 Windows. Forcing the developers to chose a walled garden, why chose MS one?
        Freebies devs would be likely more attracted by Android, that is leader of online advertising monetization.
        Developers of pro software woul be likely more attracted by iOS AND Mac, that does not sp1t on the alleged grave of desktop computing like 8 design does, backed up by two years of flamboyant MS marketing department hype…

  5. oh, so that’s what that windows button that I never, ever used is for. I’ll stick with start thank you very much.

  6. Why should we need or want to shell out for an operating system when the existing one is just fine, thankyou?

    I don’t want to be put on an 18 month OS churn like a fucking Madden player. Besides, pre-Service-Pack, every MS OS has serious issues.

  7. To the average person this upgrade is just an upgrade but to gamer’s, which I’m sure the author of the article is not a true gamer, it still his an abomination no matter how quickly you can access your programs. The problem most gamer’s are having with this new system is the CPU and RAM that the new start menu is not worth the sacrifice for some simple tiled start screen. Some people spend the bulk of there income on computer parts just for games and don’t want that money and power going to a useless start screen. Don’t title articles that imply you know what your talking about.

  8. I agree with Donny, I thought this article would be relevant to a true gamer. But this article is more geared to an average consumer, and a casual gamer. (Apps games like angry birds can not be compared to games such as Call of Duty. World of Warcraft, etc.) When discussing about gamer, it should be made clear which group of gamer or if all are being discussed, it does make a difference.

    I do not run Windows 8 on my gaming desktop, but on my tablet and family desktop, Windows 8 is ideal for friends and family, and that is due to its simplicity of use.

    My issues with Windows 8 for my gaming desktop, customization primarily and application access. You can convert to Windows 8 to give it the old handy dandy start menu, but still runs a little different from windows 7. My issue with this is, why pay for Windows 8, tiles and all OS, if I am just going to convert it to run like Windows 7. Which leads to question why fix it if it ain’t broke, Windows 7 that is.

    Another issue is, like Donny stated, the group of gamers that will upgrade hardware to maximize graphics and performance are kind of being shat on with the tiles display. Gone is the freedom to customize your home screen, and what is the point of High Definition capabilities if you have to stare at simple colored squares. I know, I know, the HD is for other applications not the home screen, but why take away the option of having a beautiful High Def, picture of my cat.

    Company usage, many companies are still using older operating system, most are familiar with the old start menu. I do not see many companies converting to Windows 8 anytime soon, not because it is bad, but mainly because the older OS work fine for what they need to accomplish. Having to retrain employees, and ensuring the company software integrate properly with windows 8 will cost time and money.

    Performance, to make it clear, I have no issues with windows 8 when it come to performance, it is no different from windows 7, just has a different start menu. The games installed run fine and that is due to the hardware not the OS. The issue I have with certain games is, some games will not install on windows 8 and some games that allow add-on to be utelized with the game are not allowed.

    Anyyyy hooo, So far just my gripes and complaints about windows 8 from a gaming perspective. Other than that Windows 8 works for me for other purposes.

  9. This whole mess of crap you typed is really not for people who play games that require more than a gig of RAM. Windows8 drags down the RAM and CPU leaving less for gaming. I can’t wait for Ubuntu (Linux) to take off, when steam has all their games for that ( or at least most of them) I tried windows 8 and it was not good, and limited my customization aswell.

  10. 1 good reason not to get windows 8 the price.

    Jacob does have a point about windows, if win8 any thing like XP (the last time I reformatted my hard drive and re-installed XP it ran at warp speed, XP insisted on installing a zillion updates and now a three toed sloth runs faster then my computer.

    as for the “of course, most users (read: young/old/disorganized people) launched everything from Desktop shortcuts anyway, bypassing both the Start Menu and the Task Bar” that crap for a start, XP keeps moving the shortcuts around and by the time I’ve found the one I want it quicker to use the start button.

    “Instead of having a corner of your monitor deliver tiny, hard-to-click shortcuts (the Start Menu), icons are now Live Tiles that are instantly apparent and identifiable”. you can change the size of the icons, and the look of that start screen my nice picture of the strike witches on my nice and neat desk top will be replaced by a load of ugly tiles

    as for the apps is there an app for choosing apps?

    TBH given a choice between windows and the amiga I’ll pick the amiga, no drivers to worry about, you can install software from any drive (something microsoft has never been able to do, it’s all a: or b: or c: ,etc where as the amiga it’s disk a: disk b: disk c: disk d: ,etc regardless of the drive)

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